On March 20, IDB completed its transition to a virtual and distance service model in response to the COVID-19 crisis. While we will be excited to return to seeing clients and providing hands on training when we can, we will maintain this service model as long as needed to ensure client and patron safety. We are continuing to closely monitor best practices from the CDC and our state and federal partners to make decisions on cancellations or postponements of upcoming in-person events. No IDB staff have tested positive or shown symptoms indicating a test is warranted at this time.

Our Vocational Rehabilitation Program Administrator and Independent Living Program Administrator worked with our Intake Specialist to streamline the referral processes for these programs to ensure that applications are being taken, eligibilities determined, and plans developed as required by federal law.

Independent Living Teachers are keeping in touch with their clients and helping them to improve their ability to communicate and reduce isolation. Here are a couple of stories from teacher Susan Howard:

β€œRichard attended Sr. Integration, April 2019, where along with his other classes in alternative techniques, he started braille. He went home and although slow he worked hard to get through the alphabet. Late last year Richard had health problems that sidelined him and he lost much of his braille. He had decided that maybe he could never learn braille. Last week I was able to hook him up with Terri Wilcox and this week he will be joining her braille class over the phone.”

β€œFran, deaf/blind 98 year old woman, who progressively has lost her hearing and vision. Fran lives in an assisted living facility. Due to a combination of health issues she often does not get out of her room so she is very limited, feels very isolated, and shut off from the outside world. The telephone was her way of at least staying connected to her family and friends. Fran had used a CapTel phone, which has a screen that the conversation is projected onto and she use to be able to see to read. Not only is she unable to hear on the phone she is no longer able to see her screen. Through partnering with Telecommunication Access Iowa she was able to get an iPad equipped with apps to open up more options for communication. Fran and I are working on learning to use the iPad to expand her connections and open up other possibilities.”

Another IL Teacher, Monica Venesky, was recently selected as a Siouxland Remarkable Woman. An article about her can be found here Here is a story of how she assisted an Iowan who just lost her vision.

β€œA 75-year-old woman stated she was so happy to have someone to help her deal with her vision loss. She stated that she had not known what to do, who to turn to, and what she might need, expressing she was really scared of losing her vision and not being able to care for herself. She was so happy that I listened to what she was struggling to do in her daily life and could offer suggestions and information about aids and devices. I described techniques over the phone to try and solve as many of her concerns as possible to show this woman she could continue to care for herself. By the time the long phone call was over, she stated she was overwhelmed with the amount of information, but she was so happy to hear there was hope that she could continue living in her own home and not go to a facility. This left her feeling much better about her situation. I reassured her that the techniques talked about by phone can be reviewed again.”"

Our orientation center staff are keeping in touch with students and teaching home management skills, job readiness, and communications skills over the phone. The Communications Instructor is meeting with students and staff trainees via phone to teach braille and using computers with screen reading software. Several students are working through our curriculum at a rate of a lesson a day and as of tomorrow one of these students. Will have successfully learned the braille code! Center staff are also working on webinars and other distance trainings on timely topics such as non-visual techniques for cleaning and deep cleaning your home and adjusting recipes to adjust for food items being unavailable.

Maintenance staff have been hard at work thoroughly cleaning our building and taking on painting and repair tasks that both allow them to practice appropriate social distancing and would be disruptive if performed when the building is occupied.

Last week the library sent out materials via mail to about 400 patrons. This included 535 digital audio book cartridges with 10, 457 titles on them, 96 books in braille and large print and 10 digital players. We feel these circulation numbers will continue if not increase over the weeks. We continue to serve patrons via telephone (about 30 calls per day) and through email.

Four new programs will be held remotely using conference calls and Zoom online meetings beginning March 30th. These programs will include book discussions where local narrators will read selected books and patrons will discuss books, a class to assist in braille and braille literacy that guides participants through braille lessons and a tech time for patrons to call in and ask questions about technology with a focus on accessing library materials online.

The library will also provide a two week training using Zoom for paraeducators and associates focusing on accessibility and providing accessible educational materials to students. For example, training topics will include accessible documents, Universal Design, braille and accessibility tools. Thirteen paraeducators and associates will participate in this training.
For the latest updates on library services, visit the Instructional Materials Center Blog at https://idbimclibrary.blog

We have received so many calls from patrons who have expressed how important receiving materials from our library is for them, especially during this time when they are feeling somewhat isolated. One patron stated that having access to books has really helped them feel connected. We hope adding the above programs will give participants an opportunity to connect over books and learning as well.